Local high school students traded their classrooms in for airplanes.
Air Force JROTC cadets from Maricopa High School have taken to the sky with help from the Civil Air Patrol.
The program is designed to educate cadets about airplanes and give them an opportunity to play pilot.
“It gets them familiar with what flying is all about, so hopefully it builds their enthusiasm about flying and the Air Force,” said Civil Air Patrol Capt. Jim Space.
MHS senior Samantha Blaschke’s first trip in an airplane was last Thursday when she boarded a small CAP craft from Chandler to Ak-Chin Regional Airport.
Her second experience in a plane would be her first time piloting one.
“I’m more excited than nervous, but as soon as I get in the front seat and get a hold of that wheel I know I’m going to be like ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to be interesting,’” Blaschke said before the flight.
Senior Reno Dugan flew the airplane from Chandler to Ak-Chin for more than 30 minutes before Space took over the controls to land.
“At first, I thought it would be scary, but it was actually exhilarating,” Dugan said.
Space taught cadets simple flying maneuvers while touring airspace above Maricopa.
“You don’t really see an experience like that,” said Cadet Ian Mase, a junior at MHS.
Greeting the cadets at Ak-Chin Regional was Maricopa Police Department Chief Stahl, VFW Post 12042 Past Commander Mike Kemery and Maricopa Unified School District Human Resources Director Tom Beckett.
The partnership between the local AFJROTC and CAP was born recently after Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey, leader of the cadets in Maricopa, attended a meeting in the East Valley hosted by the two organizations. Twelve cadets have now had the flying experience, with Alex Odell and Elijah Baxter going up Tuesday.
“As a result of this meeting, both the CAP and AFJROTC will provide orientation flights to cadets in order to motivate and stimulate the cadet’s interest in and knowledge of aviation and aerospace activities as part of its Air Force,” Kirksey said.